Blog- Real Fantasy Teams

 

Barcelona - problems aplenty

Posted: Jul 19, 2022
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What might it feel to be a Barcelona fan right now?! That is as much a question as an exclamation. A sigh and a quiz. On one hand there is the transfer market activity. And on the other is the financial state of the club. It almost feels as though two alternate realities. It must actually be two alternate realities. One reality in which players are coercing their agents to end up in Barcelona. Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski, Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie; and earlier, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torries. All players who Barcelona have signed in the last year. And the other reality is the financial debt of the football club. Over a billion pounds in debt. And yet, the show must go on.

It is as though Barcelona's culture, history and success have together combined to create this mythical footballing institution. An almost magnetic pull which one cannot ignore. Not even the club's management, who should be best aware of the financial realities. 'Should' and not 'will' because the past has shown that not all is always good. Modern football clubs are brands whose image must be lit bright lest their value diminish. And, for a slight part of it, there seems to be a tinge of feeding the brand over the football club in Barcelona's transfer activity.

However, as football fans, memories tend to run short. And if performances on the pitch soar, public opinion will swiftly change.

Barcelona - Selection Problem 


Barcelona RaphinhaNot all problems are bad. Some head scratchers are good. Well, at least on the surface of it. One such problem at Barcelona is in relation to the attacking positions. Perhaps among all, this is the kind of problem they would like to have. The problem is very simple. There are too many players for the three forward positions.

Xavi is likely to employ a 4-3-3 formation in the upcoming season. In that case, Barcelona will play with one central striker and two wide attackers. The options for the three positions include Lewandowski, Aubameyang, Memphis Depay, Ousmane Dembele, Ferran Torres, Raphinha and Ansu Fati. The Polish striker is sure to start up front as the number 9. Arguably the best striker of this generation and still going strong at 34, Lewandowski will start whenever fit, sans doubt.

The remaining players all versatile when it comes to their position. Aubameyang is primarily a forward but can and has played on the left wing. Ansu Fati, though, may be the one eventually starting games from the left. The young academy player was a revelation before injury and is destined to reach great heights. Memphis can also play in multiple positions and, along with Ferran Torres, is comfortable across the front three. Both, however, may not start. Dembele and Raphinha could start on either side with the latter being the preferred option on the right.

Dembele, having signed a new contract, will hope his career revives at Barcelona. The French player has spent too much time on medical leave and has not done justice to either his billing or his talent. However, with a ceiling as high as any in world football, he could yet be a raging success.


Barcelona - Happiness Problem


Barcelona Dembele AubameyangHowever big the selection issue is for Xavi, the non-selection issue will be even bigger. Barcelona have so many players up front that every week, at least one top player will be left on the bench. The likes of Ferran Torres and Aubameyang are good enough to start for most teams in Europe. In fact, the Ferran Torres situation is uniquely quizzical. The Spanish player had moved to Manchester City where he started well. There seemed to be a definitive future for him in collaboration with Pep Guardiola.

But that did not quite work out. And when Barcelona came calling, the Spanish international obliged. Now, at 22 years of age, he finds himself in a precarious position. There is no guaranteed start for him. Of course, at the absolute zenith, there are no guarantees for anyone. However, it is not as though he will be first choice in any of the positions. And at an age where one desires progress via regular football, his career risks stagnation.

For at least one of Dembele or Ansu Fati, a similar argument can be made. The magnitude, though, lesser for both given varying situations. Fati, still only a teenager, will perhaps accept his rotation role. And so may Dembele, given his injury record. The same, though, will not be the case in a season's time. One can argue that in two seasons, Lewandowski may need replacing. And even for that situation, it is not as though Barcelona have a replacement ready.

It perhaps shows lack of foresight to acquire Aubameyang and Lewandowski within six months of each other.


Barcelona - Financial Problem


Transfer market Frenkie De JongAnd lack of foresight is an allegation many are levelling at Barcelona at this time. There exists consensus among the game's various stakeholders - fans, agents and even fellow football clubs - that their spending defies sense. That this model is not sustainable and cannot last. The club is still in tremendous financial disarray. Supposedly, midfielder Frenkie De Jong's rumoured transfer to Manchester United is being held up owing to owed deferred wages. The players took consecutive pay cuts in as many seasons during the pandemic. Reports are that they are being dialogued to agree for another one.

This is less than six months following Joan Laporta's jaw dropping revelations at a press conference regarding his predecessors at the helm. He unveiled the results of an internal audit. It had discovered evidence of false accounting, forging of documents, unexplained payments to third parties and immense financial mismanagement.

But perhaps, there is great foresight by Laporta in all of this. Barcelona are really only fueling that one thing that turns the wheels of modern football. Brand. The club is feeding its own image and its brand. The myth and behemoth that is Barcelona will suffice operations for years to come. The money anyway comes from the sponsorships, the broadcast deals, the merchandise, global network of football schools and renting out the Camp Nou. And brighter the stars, more the money. Same goes for matchday revenue in post-pandemic times.

The last was Barcelona’s worst season in recent history. It ended with a second-placed finish, a record sponsorship deal. And now, the signing of the best striker in the world. Problems? What problems?